Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: My husband passed away suddenly. I have heard that we decide before we come to this earth what lessons we need to learn and when we will leave. How do I figure out what lesson I am here to learn? I still haven't gotten over the fear of dying that is affecting my life.
— Diane K., Winnipeg, Canada
The idea that we choose our life lessons before we are born is an article of faith. None of us remembers making such a choice. The reason some people find comfort in this idea is usually because there are situations we find very distressing, as you do the loss of your husband. It helps to believe there is a lesson hidden in such difficulties. If you feel that way, fine. But please don't think the soul has set a kind of pass/fail quiz for you. All the things we learn are by choice. You can open yourself up to anything—however hard it may be to face—or you can make other choices, such as waiting until you feel stronger and more ready to cope.
I think you have enough to face right now without setting yourself a major lesson to learn. Your fear of death is connected with many things—grief, loneliness, confusion about the future, a deep sense of insecurity. No doubt there are more elements even than these. Now is the time to be easy on yourself, not to put extra pressure. If you find a year from now that fear of death occurs over and over, then it may be time to start looking deeper.